Appeals and tribunals - an overview for agents and advisers

If you or your client disagrees with a decision made by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), in most cases you can appeal against it.

Most disputes are settled between HMRC, you and your client. However, if this is not possible, you and your client can make an appeal to a tribunal. If you do not agree with the tribunal's decision you can, in some cases, appeal to a specific court or apply for a judicial review.

This guide outlines what you need to know about disagreeing with a decision made by HMRC, how tribunals work - and how the appeals and tribunals process changed from 1 April 2009.

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Disagreeing with HMRC decisions

If you are authorised to act on a client's behalf, your client will be told of the original HMRC decision in writing and this notification will outline what action you can take if you and your client disagree, and how long you have in which to do it.

While the process for disagreeing with an HMRC decision is largely standardised across all taxes, there are some differences, depending on whether the appeal relates to direct or indirect tax.

The direct tax procedures also apply if the decision you and your client disagree with:

  • is a notice requiring you to send HMRC information or documents related to a VAT matter (made under Schedule 36 of the Finance Act 2008)
  • a penalty for failing to comply with one of these notices

How to appeal against an HMRC decision - direct tax

How to appeal against an HMRC decision - indirect tax

The process for appealing against tax credits decisions is different to that for tax-related matters.

Appealing against a tax credits decision

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Appealing to the tribunal against HMRC decisions

If you can't reach an agreement with HMRC, you can ask an independent tribunal to decide the matter.

It's important to remember that if your appeal is related to direct tax, you or your client must have made an appeal to HMRC before you can ask the tribunal to consider it.

Generally your client will not have to pay for any appeal to be held, although they should consider the cost of your time and that of any other advisers they engage for the appeal.

The Tribunals Service structure changed significantly from 1 April 2009. All tax appeals are now heard by the Tax Chamber. This is part of a single, independent tribunal system, split into two tiers - the First-tier and the Upper Tribunals. The tribunals are administered by the Ministry of Justice.

At the moment, tax credits appeals are heard by the Social Entitlement Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal, but are expected to be heard by the new Tax Chamber over time.

General guidance on the Tribunals Service website (Opens new window)

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Keep up-to-date with tribunal decisions

You can keep up-to-date with many recent tribunal decisions by checking the Tribunals Service website.

Tribunal decisions on the Tribunals Service website (Opens new window)

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Appealing against a tribunal decision

If you or your client are unhappy with the result of any appeal to the tribunal, you may be able appeal against it if the decision is wrong in law and the tribunal gives permission. The Upper Tribunal usually hears appeals against First-tier Tribunal decisions.

If there is no right of appeal, your final option is to apply for a judicial review, which can be very costly.

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More useful links

You can find more detailed guidance in the Appeals, reviews and tribunals manual. While this is written primarily for HMRC staff, you can use it to find out more about the new processes and how they will be applied.

Appeals, reviews and tribunals manual

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